Powerful documentary by Laura Poitras – The Hollywood Reporter

As a filmmaker, Laura Poitras has highlighted her bravery as an investigative journalist, especially in Citizenfour, recorded the whistleblower’s history in the process. There are elements of immediate presence and insider accessibility in her subtle new film, but All beauty and bloodshed takes her work to new aesthetic heights and evokes emotional depths. In collaboration with photographer Nan Goldin, the film chronicles Goldin’s activist mission to hold the Sacklers accountable for the opioid addiction crisis caused by their company Purdue Pharma. But it’s much more than that.

It is a portrait of the artist, through her images and words, and an insight into grassroots political action. It’s a documentary about families – especially two families that couldn’t be more different but share a dark tendency to avoid the truth: Goldin’s biological family, always focused on coming out. present, and Sacklers, trying to maintain margins. In both cases, at very different levels, reputation is everything, and the result is serious ruin. But then there’s the family of friends, the outcasts, and the deviants downtown, for whom Goldin has celebrated her work for more than 50 years, who turned their backs on the convention and created out a subculture.

Key point

A great and gritty knockout.

Poitras, as recorder and questioner – she conducted audio interviews with Goldin over a period of nearly two years – appeared briefly and then withdrew. There are a few talking heads, but the film is fueled by Goldin’s photos and slideshows, her voiceover depicting key moments in her life. The events she describes are sometimes confusing, sometimes quietly ecstatic with discovery, and always shaped by a self-seeking self-awareness.

Her words are precise – with candor and poetry, they get to the heart of the matter, whether she’s describing her experience with OxyContin addiction, dysfunctional upbringing. her serious talent, or her life on the sidelines among glamorous dreamers who invented themselves in Boston gay clubs, in low-rent Manhattan in the 70s , when bohemia was affordable, and in Provincetown. In addition to Goldin’s charismatic, stern, and provocative work, Poitras also quotes footage from Bette Gordon and Vivienne Dick to evoke the scene. Goldin appears in the latter part of Liberty’s spoils (1980), filmed at the brothel where she engaged in prostitution.

Goldin, who once ran an AIDS-themed show that drew the ire of politicians and the cultural establishment because of her friend David Wojnarowicz’s brilliantly honest catalog essay, drew protests against ACT-UP as a model for PAIN (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), the group she founded in 2017. Its goal: to support people struggling with addiction and keeping it off foot the Sacklers before Purdue’s extremely aggressive and dishonest advertising of horrendous narcotics, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.

She used her power to shake the foundations of the big money art industry with a 2018 article in Artforum that appealed to the Sacklers for their role in a health disaster. At some of the world’s most revered museums, where the Sackler name has long been prominently displayed on the wings of buildings, Goldin and her colleagues chanted “The Temple of Greed!” They organized downtimes. They threw prescription bottles into a reflective pool, and created a “storm” of prescription pages (borrowing language from an internal Sackler document), pouring rain on the Guggenheim’s rotunda – actions political influence, and many of them eventually succeeded. But they are also acts of aesthetic impact, captured by a strong sense of their elegant fervor.

The document indicates that before OxyContin, Purdue pushed Valium and Poitras to include a few of those nightmarish commercials that once flourished, targeting women and their anxieties, not too much to make them feel better but make them feel less uncomfortable for their husbands and families. Taking on powerful philanthropists in the art world and their nefarious wealth, Goldin turned it into a problem.

As for the origins of her brave act, the film outlines a life-shaping vein. At the heart of the film – and arguably Goldin’s work – is her beloved older sister, Barbara, a rebellious mismatchist who is already too prolific for their parents’ lives. . Instead, they and some of the doctors they consulted silenced their first child with the label of mental illness. Her story is an unbearable one – her grief, her gruesome death, her mother’s denial mode. The suburban neighbors must have been unaware of their domestic turmoil and its terrible depths. The art world must not think about the source of all that cash targeted by museum benefactors. In Ballad about sexual dependence, a 1985 slide show, and 1986 book are often considered Goldin’s masterpieces, she includes self-portraits that show her with scars and bruises from being brutally beaten by her ex-boyfriend. In the process of self-examination, in the arms of the difficult struggles of looking at people, her characteristic is the rejection of shame.

Filtering her outrage into focused action, she has succeeded in pressuring several museums to sever their ties with Sackler. Poitras, in her familiar reporter role in her room, documents a remarkable virtual confrontation, part of Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy hearing in which Goldin and others were influenced by OxyContin against head with members of the Sackler family – their testimonies show up on laptop screens, but nevertheless, count by emotions. Sacklers could avoid their gaze for an instant, but they couldn’t look away.

“You grow up,” Goldin said at one point in the documentary, “being told, ‘That didn’t happen. “When, after the shivers and shimmers of Soundwalk Collective’s soundtrack, Lucinda Williams’ voice rings out at the end of the film, an inspiring voice with powerful swings and openness, it’s open-ended. perfect opening for the film, insisting that this happened, and there’s no point in looking away. The story of Goldin’s active work will turn out to be a worthy film. So is the story of her birth and blossoming as an artist. The story of her sister pulls all this into another dimension, and the way Poitras and Goldin bring the ropes together, into the light, is a distillation capable of moving you to the end. core. That is art.

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